WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alex Ovechkin went from being a game-time decision to making more NHL history on Wednesday night.
The Washington Capitals star scored twice in the team’s 5-1 victory over the New York Rangers, giving him 732 career goals in 1,198 games. Those goals moved him past Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne and into sole possession of fifth place all-time in NHL career goals.
“I just enjoy my time. Of course it’s a huge privilege being on that list, but as I say all the time: Game-by-game, day-by-day,” said Ovechkin.
The 36-year-old captain was questionable for the Capitals’ home opener with a lower-body injury he sustained in their preseason finale. But Ovechkin participated in a full practice on Wednesday, increasing the likelihood he would play.
“That’s not a perfect week for him to get ready to have an opening night. There were lots of question marks [about his health]. There were still question marks this morning,” said Capitals coach Peter Laviolette. “He jumped into the game and was a major factor in the game.”
Laviolette made some history of his own, earning his 674th win and passing John Tortorella for the most wins by an American-born head coach in NHL history.
Ovechkin’s first goal came at 2:37 of the third period on the power play. He drove to the Rangers’ net as a puck deflected off of Capitals forward Anthony Mantha‘s chest and fell to the ice. Ovechkin batted the bouncing puck past goalie Alexandar Georgiev for his first goal of the season, tying Dionne.
It was his 270th career power-play goal, trailing only Dave Andreychuk (274) for the most in NHL history.
His second goal was a shorthanded tally. He sped past Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller and and flipped the puck on his backhand past Georgiev for goal No. 732.
At the next stoppage of play, the scoreboard at Capital One Arena showed Ovechkin moving up the leaderboard and played a video message from Dionne congratulating Ovechkin on “your incredible achievement,” adding “I knew you were going to pass me.”
The crowd roared and Ovechkin stood at the bench to salute them.
The tallies moved Ovechkin closer to the ultimate goal: Breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time career goals mark of 894.
Next up on the goals list for Ovechkin: Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull with 741 goals.
Nineteen-year-old Hendrix Lapierre had the honor of scoring his first NHL goal on the same night Ovechkin, one of his favorite players growing up, scored No. 732.
“You see a lot of things on TV. Growing up, you watch him play. But to see that in real life, to see the ways he finds to score goals, it’s pretty impressive,” Lapierre said. “He was a game-time decision. He comes in and scores two goals. He’s the greatest goal-scorer of all-time for a reason. His celebration … you know, the fire in his eyes. You know he wants that goal.”
Capitals winger T.J. Oshie has seen his share of Ovechkin’s goals during his 414 regular-season games in Washington.
“Sometimes you take for granted how often he scores. I saw the number of the goals, and I think that it’s been a while since I looked up and saw the actual number he was it,” said Oshie.
“That’s a lot of goals. There’s a lot of players who never even reached that many games [played]. It doesn’t get old. It really is special to be here for these milestones. I joke with him that I’m going to tell my grandkids that I played with ‘The Great 8.’ It’s an honor to be here when he’s passing these legends of our game.”